Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I still miss you

June 1, 1919 -- November 25, 2003

This is the ulogy I wrote for my grandmother's funeral, 5 years ago. The sentiments expressed then hold exactly the same currency today.

If ever there were a person I thought of as the embodiment of Love, it was June. She taught us many things about the world in which we live. I would like to share a few of them with you.

Some of my oldest and fondest memories are of times spent at Gramma’s house. Sleepovers were always a treat. Every supper we shared was by candle light and no matter how much she’d stuffed into me there would always be a last bit of toast and peanut butter just before bed. (She was always afraid that we’d go home and tell our parents that she hadn’t fed us enough—fat chance.)

I learned to shuffle cards before I could properly hold the deck, but that was alright. There was a box of tissues handy to hide the cards behind when there were too many to fan out. She taught me Go Fish, Rummy, Poker, Euchre and in doing so I learned counting, addition, fair play and that it was having fun that mattered, not who won or lost the game.

Even better were the times when all three granddaughters were there to play. So many hands of cards…the box of tissues passed to the smallest of us in turn. Picnics under the willow tree, climbing up the apple trees, and the pear. Exploring in the attic of the garage, where untold the treasures lay hidden. Grandma’s house was a place to imagine, to dream, to draw. There was always a piece of scrap paper and a pencil or a pen to add another piece of art to her gallery proudly displayed at the back door of the house where everyone came in. There was nothing we couldn’t do in her eyes. She taught us to believe in ourselves.

I remember the day that grandpa died. I was seven. I remember that it too was fast; too fast to say goodbye. So fast that we had to hold on tight to the sure knowledge that he loved us. It was very hard on all of us. Especially Gramma. In those first years, while she continued to live alone in their house out at the farm, she taught us about perseverance. She spent 10 years out there. She taught us that even when we are alone, we are never alone. She taught us that the love we carry in our hearts, the memories of those we love, sustain us. She drew deeply from that well-spring and soldiered on. Over 20 years apart never diminished her love of him. Not one bit. She often spoke of Lloyd as if he were still with her and in her heart, he was. Now they are together again. A lifetime of devotion has taught us all how to live as loving couples. To cherish the time we have together on this Earth. And we do.

When we found out she had breast cancer, she continued to teach us hard lessons. I remember seeing her in that hospital room, calm as ever. You see, June had Faith. She had faith in her doctors; better yet, she had faith in God. The prognosis was dire and a radical combination of surgery, kemo and radiation was necessary. To me, it seemed it was all the same to her. It was understood that whatever the doctor wanted of her, she would do. Whatever she had to endure, God would give her the strength to endure. While she practiced faith, we all learned to pray. We prayed as we had never prayed before. Her success got her a mention in the New England Journal of Medicine. The doctors deserved a medal.

10 years after she beat Cancer, she sat in Dr. Holiday’s office as he told her quite plainly, “June, ten years ago, you never should have gotten off that table.” Always one to know just what to say, she leveled that blue gaze at him and replied, “Well I guess that means I still had work to do.”

And work she did. June’s life was built on a firm foundation of service and duty. Joyfully done, I might add, but you all already know that. Whenever there was a need, she was a heartbeat away. She greeted me many a morning when both my parents had to go into work early. She greeted Wannetta and Glenda many days at lunch and after school too. She held the fort at the Christian Science Reading Room for almost 50 years. She also visited the sick in hospital, and the “poor old souls” at the Deerness nursing home. She delivered magazines for the inmates at the detention centre: I know, we went with her, although we waited in the car. And she never called it jail.

She took care of my grandfather’s father, nursing him in their home until he died. Then, she took care of Aunt Hatie until it was time for her to go on too. It was hard work; she never complained. She sat with each of us when we got the chicken pox. She must have been immune; she never got a spot. We always fell asleep with a warm back rub. When we had bad dreams, she told us to roll over so we wouldn’t have another one. We never did. It still works today.

Born at the end of the First World War, June saw the Roaring 20’s complete with Vaudevillian theatre and speak-easies. She saw the first talkie movies, while eating penny candies. She came to a new country and a new family during the Depression. She worked making candies and biscuits for McCormicks. She helped out at Aunt Evelyn’s rooming house during the Second World War. She was a Sunday School Teacher. She could bait a hook and bring in big trout. She and Grandpa had a garden that kept fresh food on their table, as well as the tables of their closest friends too. She was no stranger to the CNE and the Royal Winter Fair after so many years of going to show the goats that Evelyn raised. When they needed extra income to make ends meet, she worked, serving tables at Tilly’s Truck Stop out on Hwy 2. That was before the days of the 401. She attended every school play, every Christmas pageant and every piano recital. She was there for every choir concert. She was our greatest fan. She was everything to everyone. She loved and was loved.

And here she lies, peacefully and restful. After a life of caring for others, she has been rewarded with a death each of us wishes for ourselves. Its quickness cuts us all, but it is the way she wanted to go. And she had time to say good-bye. She wanted us all to know she loved us very much.

I know that the crowd assembled here today to see her off will be equal to the crowd who are waiting to receive her in Heaven. She is reunited with her friends. It would seem that her work has come to an end. We who are left behind…our work here is not finished. It is we who must go on, living in this world without her.

But…each of us carries with us a piece of June in our hearts. We carry the lessons she taught us by living so well. We are here to care for one another as she cared in her own way for each of us. We are here to carry on, to play our part and always to remember, it matters not who wins or loses, but only that we enjoy the game. Love never ends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Will Remember

LOOK down, fair moon, and bathe this scene;
Pour softly down night’s nimbus floods, on faces ghastly, swollen, purple;
On the dead, on their backs, with their arms toss’d wide,

Pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
For many years now, I have marked this day with the memories of Jung’s Collective Unconscious. I was not alive to wave goodbye to loved ones as they took the train off to war. I have not visited the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars.
I have been offered other people’s interpretations of what happened and when and to whom. History served to high school and university students: the text books full of dates; the literature full of pain; the propaganda full of euphamisms; the paintings that broke the hearts and minds of the Group of Seven Painters who went to the Front Lines in France and Belguim to document the ugly Truth of War; the poems of the men who served; and the photographs in the National Archives Of Canada.

These are the fractured lenses I have used to create in my mind an image of Sacrifice. These are the tools I have to recognize the efforts of more than 100,000,000 men and the untold number of women who left our land, a land that had not seen the face of war since the days of Napoleon and Waterloo, fed on the stories of valour and chvalry and victory.
They left a place of safe haven and entered into a world of hell. Bombs screaming from the heavens. Sirens whining day and night and no where to hide. Mud holes and trenches and frozen toes and fingers. Living on smoke and rum and hope. Praying when they could. Wandering lost when they could not.

Moments of stolen happiness. A weekend off duty in a city unbombed. A hot meal. A card game won. Letters from home. A sense that everyone was doing what they could.
Who am I to sit in this time and place of relative safety and write of things I have not seen? What shall I do to mark this day, this perennial moment of Remembrance?
I am a storyteller and a singer. I do what I can. I keep what I have learned from all the different faces of war I have seen and I pass it along. And I stand in front of my peers in my workplace and take part in the ceremonies of the day. I raise my voice and proudly sing our National Anthem and Amazing Grace. And every time I sing Danny Boy, I remember.
The Theatre of War may change: the country, the people, the agressors, the Fallen. But the face of War never changes. The struggle of man against man is inevitable, as the rising of the sun in the morning. That I wish we did not have to fight matters not. War does not care what I think. And its dehumanizing face will never turn from us.
We must remember.
I chose the verse above, not because of the conflict that spawned it, but because it represents the face of War I know. And having sung its haunting setting by Ned Rorem, I have been altered by the experience and I will always remember.
Will you?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

That Time the Falls Ran Dry

You know, I really marvel at what man can do. In an astounding feat of engineering, the Mississippi River Power Corporation has stopped the flow of the Mississippi River over the main falls in Almonte so that they can build a new, more powerful hydro-electric station at the base of the falls reusing the refurbished turbines. My friend Andrew is working for the company that is working on the turbines. Sometimes life just feels so interconnected.

This is the view of the falls from the bridge looking "up river" if there was a river to look up, that is! (The water is being diverted down the other set of falls near the Millfall Condos.)

This is the Power House where the old turbines used to whirl and hum. The movement of the river and a slight drop is what used to power the generators. But this power house is at the top of the falls and the power was only that of the river moving along.

This is the old tailrace where the water came out of the power house.This is the gorge where that leads to the lake. They've blasted it deeply now, adding probably another 20 feet to the depth. Now the water will race over the falls, building up more speed and force so that it creates more than 19 million Kilowatt hours (versus the 11 million it used to produce). Those stats come from the Mississippi River Power Corp's website.

This view is no more either. Since the day I took these photos, they've blasted a lot more out of the groud to make a chute leading to the new site of power generation.

More photos of the continuing progress are available here.

My link to the past

Anyone who's been to Almonte has likely gone past this formidable building, Rosamond's Wollen Mill. I have a link not to this building but to the man, Rosamond.

Before he settled in Almonte and built a thriving textile industry, he lived on the banks of another set of falls, in Carleton Place just up the river. And he had my house built in 1849.

And in the early Spring, when the ice is breaking up, I too can feel the power of the river as rushes over my falls on its way to generating power once again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Now We are Four

Four short years ago, two lovely ladies came into my life. Today is there’s to celebrate. Again, really as we partied hard on Thanksgiving weekend.

There were haircuts. (‘cos who doesn’t like to look snappy at a party, especially when they party is yours!)

Thanks so much to Jamie at Escape Salon & Spa for the cuts and the laughs. See you Friday for the nails!

There were cakes. My mom baked them (to order, no less) before coming down to visit and set the girls to work icing and decorating them. When you are 4 there is lots of work to do. There might have been some sampling of the icing going on there too.
I love that their paint shirts look like lab coats since cooking and baking is always like a science experiment, especially when the girls are concerned.

Then people showed up and we partied. Calla looks a bit like Steve Tyler here! Rock on, Calla!

We played Duck, Duck, Goose! And playdough and tag and had adventures on the swing set because the weather was FANTASTIC and the leaves made the back yard golden.

I swear these leaves were green 3 days ago and they turned from pale yellow to orange over the weekend. I was so happy to have spent the whole time outside in the back yard dodging the falling walnuts (courtesy of the squirrels).

The next day we celebrated Thanksgiving and gave thanks for bunk beds, Grandma, family, crayons, and turning leaves and jokes and smiles and having someone’s hand to hold, and turkey!Then we debated all week about the fact that they weren’t actually four yet. But this morning there was no doubt. It was time to be four. We celebrated with a special breakfast (because their dad is picking them up tonight after work for the weekend). Strawberry pancakes and whipped cream is a great way to start off being four. I hope they have a great day and that they enjoy their fourness as much as I am already enjoying it.

At four, my girls are cracking jokes, putting away their own dishes, stiring everything they can in the kitchen, putting their own clothes in the hamper, helping with laundry, playing really well together, sharing and saying Please and Thank You. They are also learning songs in two languages, can count to 20, and backwards from 10, can write their own names and get themselves all dressed, including outerwear. I think they are wonderful and I'm very thankful they are mine!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Finished Objects - They Can Happen

This is a quick post to show you some of the finishing up I have been at this season past.

You may recognize these as the finished product of the little girl size of Mommy Can I Have Some Too which were worn for 5 seconds longer than it took to snap the picture and then were cast off with the plaintive cry, "Mommy, they're itchy!" And have not been worn since. Who knew Regia could be so offensive (I love them myself). I have to reknit the toe on one of mine before I'll model them.

Next on the list were these lovely socks, also knit from Regia in the Avenue Color. (I love all German labels, they are so easy to pick out the colourway.) These were also worn for 10 seconds. However, it is getting colder and they are looking more appealling by the minute.
While at Almonte's Celtfest, I knit like a mad fool all afternoon while listening to Celtic Music and pretty much finished up one of these socks. They are made of Noro Kureyon which was very crunchy stuff but bloomed beautifully when I washed them. I'm waiting for the day I forget to hang them up to dry and they turn into itty-bitty socks that no one will wear (even though I don't think they're itchy at all.)

On my holidays this year, I decided to take along UFOs. When I took up with this one again I thought it was almost finished. Ha ha. I had 15 repeats of the pattern to go. Each of them took me between 2 and 3 hours.

However, it is 3 inches shy of 8 FEET LONG. Made of wool, cotton, acrylic blend. I wore it to Nelson and Carrie's wedding last weekend and it was perfect. The pattern is from Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle. Depite the fact that it took me 5 years to finish it, I suspect I started this and it was too advanced a design. I've come a long way in my obsession, I mean craft, since then.

This wasn't a UFO. It was a complete redo of loving socks made for Bruce. The ones I made last year turned into slouch socks and were not being worn. As the yarn cost me $20, I ripped them out, re-skeined them and knit the suckers again. Now they fit and just look at that fetching pose on the sock model!
Now this is not a UFO. This is inspiration. I might have bought a bit of fibre on my trip. No wonder I'm brimming with ideas for new stuff. I wish I had six arms and a house cleaner!

Soon I'll show you the yarn Kromski and I have made together.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mommy Can I Have Some Too?

These socks were born of a desire to have some nice lace to go on my feet. When I had finished one of the socks, I showed them off to my 4 year old daughters. One of them said, "Pretty, Mommy. Are you going to knit another one?" And the other one said, "Oh Mommy, are you going to knit us some?"

And thus a pattern in two sizes was born...

2.75 mm needles (5)
Opal Sock Yarn 100 g for mother
Invicta 50 g for daughter

[multiples of 6]

Lace Pattern
Row 1: P1, K4, P1; rep to end.
Row 2: P1, K2tog, (yo) twice, ssk, P1; rep to end.
Row 3: P1, K1, K into front of 1st yo, K into back of 2nd yo, K1, P1; rep to end.
Row 4: P1, yo, ssk, K2tog, (yo) twice, P1; rep to end.

Mommy Size

Cast on 66 sts; join (don’t twist)
1x1 rib for 2 inches

Start pattern. Repeat 4 rows until sock measures 7 inches from the cast on edge.

When you get to the heel, I suggest you divide your stitches so that there are 30 sts on the needle for the heel and 36 stitches left for the top of the foot. This will keep the chains undisturbed when you continue down the top of the foot after heel turning.

Close Stitch Heel:
Row 1 (right side): K1, *sl1 wyib, K1; rep from *
Row 2: (wrong side) Knit.

Knit these two rows until heel flap is square. (22 rows for me)

Turn Heel: Make rounded heel thusly:
Knit 17, ssk, K1, turn
Slip 1, P5, P2tog, P1, turn
Knit to one stitch before the gap, ssk, K1, turn
Slip 1, Purl to one stitch before the gap, P2tog, P1, turn
[Repeat until you have worked all the stitches on the heel.]

Make gusset:
Pick up the gusset stitches. [I think I picked up 20 or 21.] Keep in pattern across the top of the foot and pick up 20 or 21 along the other side of the heel flap. Arrange stitches so that there is an even number one each of the sole needles.

Round 1: Knit to the last 3 sts of the first needle, K2tog, K1; Knit in pattern across the top of the foot; on the final needle, K1, ssk, knit to the end of the needle.
Round 2: Knit the first needle; Knit in pat across the top of the foot; Knit the third needle.

Repeat these two rows until you have 18 sts on each needle. Continue knitting down the foot until you have enough pattern repeats to fit your foot to the base of your big toe. [33 repeats of the pattern from the cuff for me. Or 18 down the top of the heel.]

Toe Shaping:
Round 1: Knit to the last 3 sts of the first needle, K2tog, K1; K1, ssk, knit to the end of the needle (first half of top of foot); Knit to the last 3 sts of the first needle, K2tog, K1 (second half of top of foot); K1, ssk, knit to the end of the needle.
Round 2: Knit all sts.

Repeat these two rows until you have 7 sts left on each needle. Transfer sts to 2 needles and Kitchener Stitch closed. There are excellent tutorials out there on how to perform a Kitchener Stitch closure.

Daughter Size (Knee Socks)
Cast on 48 sts. join (don’t twist)
1x1 rib for 1 1/8 inches

Start Italian Chain Ribbing. Repeat 4 rows until sock measures 5 inches from the cast on edge.

Divide for heel:
Using half the stitches…
Row 1: *Sl1, K1* repeat. End with a K1
Row 2: *Sl purlwise, Purl to the end.
Repeat until heel flap is square.

Make gusset:
Pick up the gusset stitches. [I think I picked up 15.] Keep in pattern across the top of the foot and pick up 15 along the other side of the heel flap. Arrange stitches so that there is an even number one each of the sole needles.

Round 1: Knit to the last 3 sts of the first needle, K2tog, K1; Knit in pattern across the top of the foot; on the final needle, K1, ssk, knit to the end of the needle.
Round 2: Knit the first needle; Knit in pat across the top of the foot; Knit the third needle.

Repeat these two rows until you have 13 sts on each needle. Continue knitting down the foot until you have enough pattern repeats to fit your foot to the base of your big toe. [25 repeats of the pattern from the cuff for me. Or 15 down the top of the heel.]

Toe Shaping:
Round 1: Knit to the last 3 sts of the first needle, K2tog, K1; K1, ssk, knit to the end of the needle (first half of top of foot); Knit to the last 3 sts of the first needle, K2tog, K1 (second half of top of foot); K1, ssk, knit to the end of the needle.
Round 2: Knit all sts.

Repeat these two rows until you have 4 sts left on each needle. Transfer sts to 2 needles and Kitchener Stitch closed. There are excellent tutorials out there on how to perform a Kitchener Stitch closure.

The lace pattern for these socks was inspired by Barbara Walker’s Italian Chain Ribbing pattern converted to knitting in the round.

© All 9 Muses 2008. This original pattern is for personal use only. You are not permitted to sell it or distribute it or sell socks you make from it. Permissions may be granted for the use of this pattern or the picture used herein.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Dancing And Goats And Alpacas, Oh My!

The second half of our trip was spent driving down many a back road in search of dance halls and fibre farms (not bran and I did not see William Shatner even once).

We managed to make it to 5 dances. Not bad considering we didn’t make it to one until Thursday night in Glencoe Mills (you will recall the insane map from my previous post).
Friday night was Southwest Margaree (not to be confused with other such closely named places as Northwest Margaree, South-south-west Margaree, North-east-east-west Margaree, Margaree Harbour, and just plain old Margaree). It’s ok, the firefighters and ambulance drivers know or are related to everyone. This was a great dance. We weren’t able to make it to this one last year because of serious after college crashing out which may have stemmed from attending too many dances during school week! However, this year we did not lay down after getting to our B&B (Hillsborough B&B) thus ensuring our ability to meet up with college friends at the dance. The only pictures I got were of peoples’ backs, a frequent problem at square dances. You spin around a lot!

The next night was West Mabou. We tried to go to the Mabou dance on our way down, but Bruce was feeling under the weather so we gave it a miss (it is an hour from the college and and hour back to the college so really I think that was for the best). As it was, we were only a few minutes from our next B&B Clayton Farm with a 4th generation dairy farm operator. The great thing about this was that we knew two of the guests from college and had dinner with two more (the Red Shoe Pub is a very popular place to eat in Mabou and tables come at a premium so it’s not unusual to share a table and conversation with good company). And the final couple were roped into going to experience the dance by our friends Jo and Simon so when we sat down to breakfast the next morning, there was a good amount of hooting and hollering and carrying on. I think it might just have been the best breakfast of the trip. Bruce and I played a few tunes for people before we all took off. The dance was great too.

The real trick to surviving the dances is threefold: 1. You don’t jump up and down like an over exuberant git and your knees will thank you for it. 2. You don’t dance every set. There are plenty throughout the evening and each one lasts about 20 minutes (2 jig sets and a reel set). 3. You go outside and cool down, even if it’s raining because you’re likely pretty wet anyways. Other than pulling a muscle in my neck which left me immobilized for a few days and was more attributed to lugging around way too much summer weight clothing in my bag than dancing, I suffered little in the way of ill effects on this years dance circuit.

On Sunday we took a break from the dances (more because there wasn’t one to go to) and we went to the Mabou Coal Mines music festival. $5 got you in for the afternoon to see a bunch of up and coming muscians and dancers and a boat ride up the coast. And it didn’t rain the whole time we were there. A miracle in music.

If you look at the right side of this picture, you can actually see a seam of coal. The town of Mabou Coal Mines dried up when it became too expensive to pull the coal out of the hills. Now there's just the port left. Here are a few pictures of our boat ride.

Bruce made a friend.
This one is my National Geographic shot of a heron in flight from a moving boat. Monday we were back at the dance hall, this time Brook Village (another winding road and wondering when you’ll get there. This hall was absolutely jammed with people. We met up with a couple from Embrum who hold a family square set weekend each month so there’s hope for us to get in a few more dances before next year. But we left early as there wasn’t enough room in that hall to turn around and fart and you hoped dearly that no one else thought there was!

When we weren’t off to a dance, we combed the countryside looking for yarn and fibre to spin. I purposely didn’t bring along my accordion this year so there’s be more room in the car for some very squishable yarns and rovings and I wasn’t disappointed.

We went to Baadeck Yarns in Baddeck where I hoped to get some Fleece Artist yarn or perhaps a kit, but the wet weather had stymied that idea. Poor woman couldn’t get any because the wet weather was making it impossible to dry the newest stuff. I believe I bought a bit of sock yarn from a new producer in Quebec (I’ll tell you about it when it comes out of the stash) and some Fleece Artist sliver for spinning.

When we got to Mabou, we seemingly drove straight to the Mabou Ridge Fibre Processing Mill and met with the owner and some of the animals. She’s not up and running presently due to some legal issues, but we’ll check back in with them next year to see how things are going then. We did come away with a lovely couple of bags of roving though, some corriadale and alpaca and some straight up yummy brown alpaca. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

These are her goats. Their beards were very stiff. From their drool. ICK! Soft mohair though!

This is a brother of the alpaca at the top of this post. They are such characters.

Then on our way back into town (all of 10 minutes down the road) we stumbled into the barnyard of Bellemeade Farms, a lovely little shop on a working farm with hand dyed, hand painted stuff. I purchased dyed fleece and some skeins of yarn.

The greatest thing about travelling around Cape Breton is that at any moment, you can come across a hammered-in homemade sign at the side of the road that says, "MOHAIR" with an arrow. No indication how far you'll have to go before finding this trove of goat hair. But follow it we did. I said, let's just try 5 minutes down the road. Afterall, we were about to leave the island at this point and this was yet another unexpected detour.

So after 10 minutes, and having left the paved road, we came upon this little place at the very end of a road. The goats had been sold (the farmers had retired) but there was plently of fibre to be had from this lady's stash. I don't remember her name. I'll dig it out when I spin the fibre. It was worth the trip though.
The last place we went for fibre was in Nova Scotia proper near Wolfville at Gasperau Valley Fibres. I spent every last dime of my mad money in that place and I still want to lay down from the vapours. Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns tells it wonderfully and I will direct you to her post about it. Irony of ironies, we were almost there at the very same time. I should have loved the opportunity to meet her there.
Next installment, I'll tell you about us getting dressed up in Sherbrooke Village.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back Home from the Near East

It was great to get away for two weeks to the eastern reaches of our fair land. Cape Breton was fantastic. It was much like visiting Scotland (I’m told) as it rained nearly all day, every day for the entire week we were at the college. Not that it mattered much as we were up by 7am and rolling off to eat and attend our 6 classes.

So what did I learn this year? Each morning I spent entirely in the weaving and spinning shed with Marie MacDonald learning how to use natural dyes and spinning a variety of fibres I’ve never used before. We dyed with brazil wood, sandal wood, madder, and cochineal (which is made out of bugs, I’m not kidding). I spun mohair, wool, and silk. I can really see the fibre addiction beginning now folks. Look out!
Being in the Weaving and Spinning building was really nice because when you work with your hands, you really have the ability to use your ears and your mouth at the same time. So I heard stories of the other students who had spent time in other countries and in the far north, were coping from the affects of car accidents and house fires and family break-ups. It really made me pine for the company of women as we had the binding agent of the love of the college and the crafts to loosely tie such diverse and interesting people together while achieving the goals of learning something new. I can really see the merit in our guilds and knitting circles and quilting clubs, etc. The Weaving cabin has a sense of steeped quietness and secrets and it lends itself to sharing.

The afternoons were much more intense. Right after lunch was piano accompaniment. Kolten MacDonell was refreshing and fun. He taught us some really good rules of which chords were used most often and when we should try something different and he gave us some patterns to use for the different rhythms for jigs, reels and strathspeys. I got so much out of this year’s class.

Michelle Stewart (bottom left of the picture) absolutely blew my head off in her bodhran classes. Truly advance drum teaching was wonderful. Not only did I learn new rhythms to use, but she opened my eyes about using sound dynamics and different pitches to effect and I watcher her very carefully to see how she held the tipper and I’ve tried to emulate her economy of movement! This class was worth the trip alone!
Dance class fell at the end of the day. Jean MacNeil, mother of the Barra MacNeils, was just a real treat. Not only can this woman cut a rug, she’s a great teacher who is more than willing to use cool down time (and plenty of it) to tell us stories about being the mother of 6 and what it was like growing up in Washbuck. It doesn’t sound like much on the page, but let me tell you, she had us crying with her stories. And the dance steps were a review of all the ones we learned last year (which none of us had used since then). To my credit though, I continued with this idea of an economy of movement and didn’t end up wrecking my body in class or at the dances we went to.On Thursday night after the student ceilidh, a bunch of us packed into cars and headed off into the wilds of the night to find Glencoe Station and the dance hall. Mark was kind enough to encourage everyone to go and provided us with a map.

The dance was not well attended, but that actually meant there was lots of room on the dance floor and I did see some people who I had met at the dances last year. Quite obviously they go all the time all, year round. Beats going to the gym by a long shot.

On Friday, we packed up our things after our classes and headed off into the next leg of our trip. Mabou and the dances. Which I’ll tell you about next time.